7 Questions With Book Cover Designer & Bestselling Author Melinda De Ross
Melinda De Ross is a hyper talented graphic designer, USA Today bestselling author and lover of all things creative. She loves graphic design and strives to show that in her work. Melinda enjoys helping other authors and her prices reflect that. She’s helped create numerous bestsellers, which visitors can see more thoroughly on her portfolio page, or read about in the testimonials.
As an author, Melinda knows how important it is to find someone to capture the entire essence of your wonderful book in a single image, and she always tries to achieve that – in a timely manner, too. Take a look at her work, then contact her if you want to be a bestselling author too!
For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther Rabbit, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away. For writing and marketing tips consider subscribing to my YouTube Channel.
What mistakes do authors make when approaching you and what advice do you have for them in that sense?
Ah, one could write a book about this subject alone! It’s not easy for designers to get into the authors’ heads and understand what they want, so I’ll just point out a few of the most common mistakes authors make when working with a graphic designer.
- lots of expectations, little reward
Some authors want great work at very low prices, and if possible they want it done very quickly as well. As I will explain later, quality is directly proportional with compensation. Authors need to understand that graphic design is a job like any other, and needs to be compensated just as any regular job. And like in any other job, designers have a schedule for working hours, as well as days off.
- less is more
Sometimes authors want their book covers to tell the whole story and they don’t realize that cramming all the elements they have envisioned in one image simply doesn’t look good. Once, I saw an author who’d posted a description of the book cover she wanted: she described in detail the building she wanted on the cover, and standing on that building she wanted her heroine, which she also described in detail, from her clothes down to her haircut and eye color.
Authors have to understand there’s only so much you can stuff into an image of approximately 5X8 inches, and that the book cover is not supposed to tell the whole story, but to give the readers a glimpse into it and make them want to read it. The book cover should draw the eye in thumbnail at a glance.
- too little feedback
Authors need to communicate very well with the designer, and for that they need to give detailed feedback about what they like, what they don’t like, and so on. I offer my clients a questionnaire to fill out before we start working together, and I always ask them for examples of covers they like. They need to work with the designer to obtain the perfect product.
- too much feedback
There is such a thing, or as it’s sometimes called, micromanagement. Usually authors choose a designer because they like their style, so they need to trust the designer to come up with the best product. Micromanagement is a big no-no in this business, unless the author truly knows what he or she is doing. Also, asking for too many third-party opinions will slow down the design process and may very well result in the designer dropping that project. A designer is paid to make a cover the author likes, not to indulge suggestions and requests from all the author’s friends, relatives, and so on.
Are there cover design trends depending on genre? Do shed a light for authors to knock on your door fully prepared.
Absolutely, and a good designer must always be on the lookout for these constantly changing trends. It’s crucial for a cover to clearly reflect the genre of the book, and it’s a designer’s job to tell the authors that.
If an author likes a certain image but that doesn’t fit within the genre, most likely that book won’t sell, or it will be mistaken for a different genre and get bad reviews. No designer wants to be blamed for a snafu like that, so we need to pay attention to trends and always keep our clients informed.
Why should an author choose you over a “cheaper” alternative?
Authors who are serious about their careers need to think in perspective and create a brand that resonates with quality. In 99% of cases, cheap covers look cheap, and that sends a message about the author and their work. They might sell books, but they sell them to the wrong type of readers, those who will always expect cheap books and rarely return to buy another one at full price.
Readers who want quality take one look at a cheap cover and pass. This is the kind of readers who are willing to pay a fair price for a book, not only bargain hunters. In order to attract such quality readers, you need a quality cover, and that does not come cheap. I’ve met many authors who started by picking cheaper alternatives, and ended up spending more money to redo their book covers when they realized they needed to invest in their brand in order to be successful.
However, there are designers such as myself whose prices are more than reasonable, and they deliver excellent products.
According to most of my clients’ testimonials, I’m intuitive, reliable, fast, and communicative. Add to that very reasonably priced, and that’s an author’s recipe for success! Several of my clients are USA Today and #1 Amazon bestsellers, and it’s an incredible feeling to know the covers I’ve created helped them achieve those goals. I always hand over to my clients the editable layered files of their covers, and unlike other designers my contract does not bind the clients to me in any way and grants them the copyrights to the cover once our business is concluded. I’m happy they return because they love my work.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”… but we all do. What are some attributes of an attractive cover?
The cover of a book is the first thing potential readers see, and the decisive chance the author has to attract or put off potential buyers. An attractive cover must look, first of all, professional. Most readers will cringe away from a cover that screams homemade, even if it’s not.
Traditionally published authors used to have the best covers, but in our days indie authors can have even better covers with all the talent available in the graphic design market. A proper cover should always reflect the genre of the book. While there are exceptions, the most successful covers are simple, clean, yet distinguish themselves with one unique, eye-catching element.
It’s not as important for the cover to tell the story, as long as it conveys the feel of the book. Great typography is a vital element, as is the background imagery and colors. All these elements must be combined in one tasteful, harmonious, and most of all, marketable cover.
What’s an approximate price authors would pay upon hiring your service?
The price depends on the client’s needs and the complexity of the design, as well as the number of covers they need. My regular price is $250 for an ebook+paperback cover package.
I almost always offer my clients bonuses, like banners and ads, or kindle/paperback mockups of their books. My services also include banners, ads, animated GIFs, book trailers, but those prices are discussed on a case by case basis, because they can be very simple or very complex.
What would you do if you wouldn’t be creating digital magic?
The same thing I do now: write books. I’m also a writer and my time is roughly split 50-50 between writing and graphic design. I love design as much as I love writing, because I’m a creative person by nature and I am in my element among all things artistic.
It’s funny that I’ve started doing graphic design at the beginning of my writing career back in 2013, when I was too broke to afford hiring a designer. Since then, I’ve discovered I enjoy creating covers for other authors as much as I do for myself. Besides, as an indie author, I love helping out my fellow writers. The joy and gratitude when they see their babies wrapped up in the cover of their dreams is priceless.
I’d like you to make a personal top 3 of the very worst cover designs you’ve seen and explain what was wrong with this selection.
Gosh, this is so funny and sad at the same time! I can’t honestly think of three specific worst book covers I’ve ever seen, but I can tell you three of the worst cover styles out there.
- Floating heads over landscapes. I see hundreds of covers where the upper half consists of people’s heads/upper body photos, and the lower half is an image of something else entirely, like a landscape, city, clouds, whatever. As skilled as a designer can be, this type of composition is terrible in my opinion. It’s like looking at a creature that’s half-human, half-something else—and I don’t mean a sexy Aquaman. Sometimes there are cases when double exposure works, but generally as a reader this screams amateur to me and I stay away from those covers.
- Stock photos of couples with terrible text on them, usually elongated and disproportionate. The only thing that’s worse than this is badly cropped photos over a contrasting background. Again, it’s a cliché in the indie romance industry and I hear one can buy something like this for $10, but come on! Do authors really can’t do better for the books they spend weeks or months to write? They should work just as hard to pick a quality book cover, to do justice to their story.
- Books with a decent background but with horrible font. I don’t see many of these because most designers who can put together a good background can also pick a nice font, but there are cases when I see a potentially good cover ruined by a font that’s too large, too thin, too small, too hard to read, the wrong color, etc. That will surely ruin a book cover. Font is as important as the image behind it and it’s an art form just to pick the right one.
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.